"The dialogue and pacing serve as colorful fabric to clothe decisions."
Two characters are walking down the street. One's a vaguely familiar male and the other a worried young woman expressing her uncertainty. They look like people I know, but from where? Oh, right, these are the two central characters of A New Frontier I met in December of 2016. But wasn't she shot? I can't exactly remember, but I thought she was shot. He looks so weird, though. What's up with his face? Oh, yeah! He had facial hair. Okay, this is a — flashback, right?
Despite its extended hiatus, I have to admit that I was excited to delve into Episode 3. What caught me even more off-guard was that I groaned as my wife came home mid-episode and I had to stop so that she wouldn't catch any spoilers. That might be the greatest endorsement of this entry. As I stated in my review of the first two installments, I love the direction this new season has taken and I find the new cast endearing and real. Episode 3 not only stays the course, but sails on confidently, wind coupling the oars.
As usual, Telltale opens with text stating that player decisions drive the direction of the story, and it's more clear here than ever. I honestly could see this season moving in a few different directions based on my decisions, and whether that's illusion or not, that sense is praise enough. Tension rises as Javier has to make some truly challenging decisions between important people in his life, past and present. Can people redeem themselves now that they're faced with the end of the world, or should Javier respect the wishes of newly discovered family? What about friends who've put everything on the line for him, a stranger? The dialogue and pacing serve as colorful fabric to clothe decisions.
Fans of the Walking Dead TV series were likely happily treated to a surprise in the second episode, but they may find some small spoilers for the show unwanted in this episode. As someone who avoids spoilers at all costs, I found the snippet of information in Episode 3 a tad offensive, but those who don't mind a small peek behind the curtain may thoroughly enjoy the tasteful slip. Even though I didn't appreciate it, my interest was admittedly piqued.
The quick-time-events continue in their tact that Telltale had learned years ago, serving more to immerse rather than burst the bubble of escapism. I found myself gritting my teeth in intense fight scenes, indicative of my feelings of worry and anger; if not for the keys I had to press, I'm not sure I would have held the same passion. In this way, I felt a part of the action, rather than an outsider looking in.
Unfortunately, performance issues occurred that pulled me out of the game near the end. Lip-syncing seemed noticeably off at times. Though these are minor gripes, they were enough to break my immersion. Technical issues aside, the artwork, animation, camera work, and voice acting helped to maintain my attention throughout. Telltale's aesthetics here work with the source material, as has been standard for their Walking Dead series.
More than three months on from the previous episode, we are treated with an hour and a half of a game. That said, the hour and a half felt like half an hour, whereas other Telltale series tend to drag. This episode flew by at the swiftness of a baseball bat or bullet. While I hesitate to say that this was worth the wait because I do not want to encourage Telltale's practice of delayed releases, the fact of the matter is that I love this new season as much as I have seasons 1 and 2, albeit in slightly different ways. The series has matured nicely alongside Clementine — I just wish Telltale's release schedule would do the same.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.